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For other uses, see Deliverance (disambiguation).
Deliverance poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed by John Boorman
Produced by John Boorman
Screenplay by James Dickey
John Boorman
Based on Deliverance 
by James Dickey
Starring Jon Voight
Burt Reynolds
Ned Beatty
Ronny Cox
Cinematography Vilmos Zsigmond
Edited by Tom Priestley
Elmer Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s)
  • July 30, 1972 (1972-07-30)
Running time 110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million
Box office $46,122,355[1]

Deliverance is a 1972 American dramatic thriller film produced and directed by John Boorman and starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox, with the latter two making their feature film debuts. The film is based on the 1970 novel of the same name by American author James Dickey, who has a small role in the film as the Sheriff. The screenplay was written by Dickey and an uncredited Boorman.

Widely acclaimed as a landmark picture, the film is noted both for the memorable music scene near the beginning, with one of the city men duelling on guitar with a strange country boy playing banjo, that sets the tone for what lies ahead—a trip into unknown and potentially dangerous territory—and for its notorious "squeal like a pig" male rape scene. In 2008, Deliverance was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


Four Atlanta businessmen, Lewis Medlock, Ed Gentry, Bobby Trippe, and Drew Ballinger, decide to canoe down a river in the remote northern Georgia wilderness, expecting to have fun and see the glory of nature before the fictional Cahulawassee River valley is flooded by the construction of a dam. Lewis, an experienced outdoorsman, is the leader. Ed is also a veteran of several trips but lacks Lewis' machismo. Bobby and Drew are novices.

The four men encounter friction with the "mountain men" locals, some of whom appear to be inbred. The locals are suspicious of the city men while the four middle class men act superior to the poor and uneducated locals. Bobby is particularly contemptuous of the poverty and uncouth nature of the local men. Despite this, Drew bonds with a local teenager when they engage in an impromptu rendition of "Dueling Banjos", but the boy frowns and turns away when Drew offers his hand to the youngster in a congratulatory gesture, which Drew finds strange, as the boy had been happy and smiling only moments earlier. The boy next appears on a footbridge over the river just as the men are beginning their trip. He watches the men as they canoe under the bridge, again ignoring Drew's friendly gesture to him.

When the men break for their first night on the river, Lewis leaves to investigate a strange noise in the woods but returns having found nothing. The next day the group's two canoes are separated and Bobby and Ed pull ashore to try and get their bearings. The two are accosted by a pair of shotgun wielding hillbillies, who claim that the men have accused them of running a still and making moonshine whiskey. The hillbillies tie Ed to a tree and violently rape Bobby, ordering the overweight man to "squeal like a pig". As the hillbillies prepare to orally rape Ed, Lewis and Drew arrive on the scene. Using his bow, Lewis kills the man who raped Bobby and Drew grabs the shotgun and scares off the other man.

The men argue about how to proceed. Drew insists that they must report the incident to the police but Lewis argues otherwise. He states that "these people are all related," therefore any police investigation or jury would likely include the man's friends and relatives. Ed agrees with Lewis, and Bobby insists that he does not want his rape to become public knowledge. The four men bury the body, reasoning that the impending flood of the valley will cover up any evidence and that the escaped man will not go to the authorities because of his participation in the rape.

The four make a run for it down the river, cutting their trip short, but soon disaster strikes as the canoes reach a dangerous stretch of rapids. Drew suddenly falls out of the lead canoe and disappears, causing Ed to lose control and smash both boats on the rocks. Lewis breaks his leg in the spill and he, Bobby and Ed make it to shore. Lewis believes that the man who escaped is stalking them and shot Drew from the bluffs above the river. That night, Ed makes his way up the bluffs with a bow and arrow. The next morning he sees a man, whom he believes to be the escaped hillbilly, holding a gun and looking down into the ravine. Ed nervously shoots an arrow at the man, killing him, but in the process he slips and wounds himself with one of his own arrows. On closer inspection, Ed is no longer sure that the man he shot is the same one who escaped, noting that the escaped man had missing teeth while this one wore dentures. He returns to the river's shore with the body, but Bobby cannot positively identify the man. Ed and Bobby weigh the body down with rocks and sink it in the river. Further down the river they recover Drew's drowned body with a head wound that may or may not have been caused by a gunshot.

They finally reach their destination, the town of Aintry, which is being relocated and will soon be submerged by the waters displaced by the new dam. The local sheriff seems suspicious of the men's story that Drew drowned on the river and notes that a deputy of his is missing a relative who had gone out hunting in the area, presumably one of the men whom Ed and Lewis have killed. Nevertheless the sheriff has no actual evidence and releases the men, who vow to keep the events of the trip secret for the rest of their lives. In the final scene, Ed awakens screaming from a nightmare wherein a dead man's hand reaches up from the surface of the newly formed lake.



Deliverance was shot in the Tallulah Gorge southeast of Clayton, Georgia and on the Chattooga River, which divides the northeastern corner of the state of Georgia from the northwestern corner of the state of South Carolina. Additional scenes were shot in Salem, South Carolina. A scene was also shot at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church cemetery, which now lies 130 feet under the surface of Lake Jocassee, on the border between Oconee County and Pickens County, South Carolina.[2][3]

In addition to the film's famous theme music, there are also a number of sparse, brooding passages of music scattered throughout, including several played on a synthesizer. Some prints of the movie omit much of this extra music. Other than Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandel (later amended to add Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith, per his lawsuit) for credit on "Dueling Banjos", there is no credit for any of the soundtrack music. Boorman's gold record for the "Dueling Banjos" hit single was later stolen from his house by the Dublin gangster Martin Cahill, a scene Boorman recreated in The General (1998), his biographical film about Cahill.

During the filming of the canoe scene, an inebriated James Dickey engaged in a bitter argument with Boorman. The result was a brief fistfight—Boorman had his nose broken and four of his teeth shattered—Dickey was thrown off the set, yet no charges were filed. The two made up and became good friends, culminating in Dickey's role as the sheriff at the end of the film.

The canoes that were used in the film are now on display at the Burt Reynolds Museum, located at 100 North U.S. Highway 1, in Jupiter, Florida.

One of the canoes used (and signed by Ronny Cox) is currently on display in the Tallulah Falls Railroad Museum, Dillard, Georgia.

Jon Voight's stunt double for this film, Claude Terry, purchased equipment used in the movie by Warner Bros. to create what is now the oldest whitewater rafting adventure company on the Chattooga River.[4]

Notorious line[edit]

There is no "squeal like a pig" line in the novel. Beatty states that he created the famous line while he and actor McKinney were improvising the scene.[5]

James Dickey's son, Christopher, in his book, Summer of Deliverance, said that it was one of the crewmen who suggested that Beatty's character, Bobby, "squeal like a pig"—to add some backwoods horror to the scene and to make it more shocking. According to Boorman's running commentary on the home media releases, the studio wanted the scene shot two ways, one of which would be acceptable for TV. Boorman did not want to do this, and as "squeal like a pig", suggested by Frank Rickman, a Clayton native, was a good replacement for the (presumably obscene) dialog in the script, it was substituted, as it would work for both the theatrical and TV versions.


Deliverance was a box office success in the United States, becoming the fifth highest grossing film of 1972 after grossing a domestic total of over $46 million.[1] The film's financial success continued the following year, when it went on to earn $18 million in North American rentals.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Deliverance was well received by critics and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1972.[7][8][9][10] The film currently holds a 94% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[11] Not all reviews were positive, though. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said:

Dickey, who wrote the original novel and the screenplay, lards this plot with a lot of significance -- universal, local, whatever happens to be on the market. He is clearly under the impression that he is telling us something about the nature of man, and particularly civilized man's ability to survive primitive challenges[…] But I don't think it works that way.[…] What the movie totally fails at, however, is its attempt to make some kind of significant statement about its action.[…] Dickey has given us here is a fantasy about violence, not a realistic consideration of it.[…] It's possible to consider civilized men in a confrontation with the wilderness without throwing in rapes, cowboy-and-Indian stunts and pure exploitative sensationalism.[12]

The instrumental song "Dueling Banjos" won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance. The film was selected by The New York Times as one of The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made, while the viewers of Channel 4 in the United Kingdom voted it #45 in a list of The 100 Greatest Films.

Awards and nominations[edit]


American Film Institute lists[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Survival film, about the film genre, with a list of related films


  1. ^ a b "Deliverance, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  2. ^ Simon, Anna (2009-02-20). "Cable network to detail history of Lake Jocassee". The Greenville News. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  3. ^ Heldenfels, Rich (2009-11-05). "Body double plays banjo". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved 2009-11-06. 
  4. ^ Southeastern Expeditions. Retrieved 8/19/2013.
    "Regarding his debut film, Deliverance (1972), in which his character undergoes an unforgettably vivid sexual assault, Beatty said: 'The whole "squeal like a pig" thing ... came from guess who.' As the audience laughed, he theatrically put his head in his hands and silently pointed to himself, before elaborating how director Boorman encouraged him to improvise the scene with his onscreen tormentor, Bill McKinney."
  6. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
  7. ^ "Greatest Films of 1972". Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  8. ^ "The Best Movies of 1972 by Rank". Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  9. ^ "Best Films of the 1970s". Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  10. ^ IMDb: Year: 1972
  11. ^ "Deliverance". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  12. ^ "Deliverance." Chicago Sun-Times.
  13. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
  14. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
  15. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot

External links[edit]